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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Consumer advocate Ralph Nader poses in front of a Chevrolet Corvair in The American Museum of Tort Law, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Winsted, Conn. The museum, which opens Saturday, has been developed by the consumer advocate and two-time presidential candidate as a kind of ode to the jury system. Nader featured the Corvair in his 1965 book on the auto industry’s safety record, “Unsafe at Any Speed”. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: The American Museum of Tort Law focuses on breakthroughs in product, worker, and consumer safety achieved through lawsuits mostly for wrongful injuries or deaths. Consumer crusader Ralph Nader founded the museum in his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut.

    RALPH NADER: The three purposes of the law of wrongful injury, called tort law, is not just compensation of the wrongfully injured person by the perpetrator, not just disclosing defects that help educate and alert people, but it’s also deterrence. It deters unsafe practices around the country.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: At 81, Nader still has faith in the jury system and champions civil court as a transparent venue that empowers regular citizens.

    RALPH NADER: No one can stop you from going to a lawyer and filing a case in court to hold the perpetrator of your wrongful injuries accountable. In that sense, it’s the most direct democracy instrument that people in this country have, and it’s all an open court with transcripts, with the media, with cross examination.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: Nader first gained national attention in 1965, when he documented dangerous cars in his book Unsafe At Any Speed. Exhibit A – the Chevrolet Corvair made by general motors. It’s the museum’s centerpiece.

    RALPH NADER: It was not a stable car. It leaked carbon monoxide. The steering column starts a few inches from the leading surface of the front tires, so you get a collision like this, the steering column becomes a spear in the chest of the driver.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: GM faced more than a hundred liability lawsuits, and Corvair sales plunged. A year later, congress passed a landmark car safety act.

    RALPH NADER: President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Laws regulating the auto industry, mandating safety standards like better brakes, better tires, seatbelts, eventually airbags, padded dash panels — all the things we now take for granted. And it’s been a great success.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: In fact, it changed standards for automobile manufacturing around the world. So did the case of the 1970’s Ford Pinto after dozens of people were burned in collisions.

    RALPH NADER: It had a fuel tank that could be penetrated on a rear end collision and spew the gasoline all over. And Ford knew it.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: Nader says internal memos subpoenaed in a lawsuit revealed Ford had calculated it was cheaper to pay off dozens of accident burn victims than to fix the defect in millions of cars.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: Do you think the civil justice system is adequate to provide the accountability that we need when it comes to regulating companies that are engaged in either misconduct or cover-up of misconduct?

    RALPH NADER: The history of successful cases, some of which are in this museum, illustrates that often the regulators and legislatures don’t wake up until some plaintiff gets a lawyers and digs out the cover-ups and the incriminating information about a safety defect in an automobile or another product. And the media picks it up and that leads to more broad-based upgrades in safety standards to protect the people. 

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: Nader credits civil lawsuits for stopping the sale of toys with parts that were choking hazards….and banning asbestos, an insulation material once widely used in construction but found to cause cancer.

    RALPH NADER: The civil justice system is a backup system when the criminal justice system fails.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: Nader says too often criminal prosecutors shy away from charging corporate executives.  In the recent General Motors ignition switch defect, linked to more than 100 deaths, federal prosecutors settled for a 900 million dollar fine.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: It seems to happen all the time as if it’s a cost of doing business?

    RALPH NADER: Well, it’s not a cost of doing business when the corporation executives go to jail. It’s amazing how much penalty a company can take if it’s big enough, like General Motors or Volkswagen, and ride it out.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: In the 1980s and 90s, lawsuits revealed tobacco companies knew about and hid the risks of smoking. The companies agreed to pay out more than 200 billion dollars.

    RALPH NADER: It all started with these lawyers who often lost and lost in the courts, until they started winning and divulging all the internal documents of Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, which showed two things: one, that they knew from the get go that tobacco smoke caused serious ailments like lung cancer; and two, that they were deliberately marketing to young kids because they knew if they could hook them at 12 years age, they got them for life.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: Over the years, Nader’s critics have said the reforms and regulations he has advocated for have enriched trial lawyers and driven up the cost of business.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: What do you say to critics who would look back over these 50 years, these cases which you celebrate, and say, “You know what, Mr. Nader, you have a point, but it’s also turned us, the United States, into a much more litigious society?”

    RALPH NADER: Just the opposite. That’s insurance company propaganda. The Center for State Courts and studies by law professors at the University of Wisconsin show that we do not file more civil lawsuits per capita than Western countries, and stunningly, that we file fewer civil suits per capita today than we did in the 1840s.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: The author of those Wisconsin studies says there was a rise in the number of civil cases into the 1980s, but it’s since leveled off. In 2010, a Harvard law school study found Americans do file more lawsuits per capita than other industrialized democracies.  But a new report by the national center for state courts found a slight drop in civil cases filed in the u-s in the past decade.

    Nader ran for president four times as a third party candidate and would like to the 2016 candidates focus more on consumer protection.

    RALPH NADER: Although the law of wrongful injury affects millions of Americans every year, it’s never discussed in political campaigns, except negatively.

    PHIL HIRSCHKORN: What title do you prefer for yourself?

    RALPH NADER: Public citizen.  I think we all should be public citizens with a few hours every week.  How else can our democracy work?  How else can we have a good society?

    The post Inside Ralph Nader’s American Museum of Tort Law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he and his family arrive via Air Force One at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii Saturday.   Photo By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he and his family arrive via Air Force One at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii Saturday. Photo By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    President Barack Obama has vetoed two resolutions passed by Congress that would have halted climate change polices enacted earlier this year.

    The legislation would have nullified new Environmental Protection Agency rules requiring power plants to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years.

    The initiative, the Clean Power Plan, was first unveiled in August.

    Twenty-seven states are currently suing to stop the new regulations from being implemented.

    The veto announcement was dated Friday but released by the White House Saturday morning, as the president and his family traveled to Hawaii to begin a two-week Christmas vacation.

    The president vetoed two separate Congressional resolutions related to the new rule – one for new power plants and another for existing ones – adding to the five vetoes he already had issued this year.

    “The Clean Power Plan is a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change,” Obama said in the statement.

    “Because the resolution would overturn the Clean Power Plan, which is critical to protecting against climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of our Nation, I cannot support it,” he said.

    The post Obama vetoes GOP attempt to reverse power plant regulations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders discuss a point during the second official 2016 U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate in Des Moines, Iowa in November. Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders discuss a point during the second official 2016 U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate in Des Moines, Iowa in November.
    Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

    Just before the final Democratic presidential debate of the year, tensions suddenly are boiling between front-runner Hillary Clinton and chief rival Bernie Sanders.

    Revelations that campaign workers for Sanders improperly accessed voter data compiled by the Clinton campaign have thrown a wild card into the primary season’s third debate, set for 8 p.m. EST from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and broadcast on ABC.

    Until the Friday dust-up, the debate was seen as focusing on national security.

    Sanders had been struggling to get airtime for his economic-focused message when others are talking about keeping the country safe after attacks in Paris and California. Now, he also must answer charges about his campaign.

    In a jarring departure from what had been a genteel contest, the Clinton team is accusing the Sanders campaign of stealing information about potential voters worth millions of dollars.

    The Sanders camp accuses the Democratic National Committee of heavy-handed hijinks to smooth Clinton’s path to the nomination. The DNC removed the Sanders team’s access to the voter files as part of its investigation into the data breach. Sanders’ campaign said its access was restored Saturday morning.

    For Clinton, who has a commanding lead of 20 points or more in most national polls, the question was whether she would try to capitalize on the incident. She might see greater value in taking a pass and not alienating Sanders’ backers. Clinton would need his grassroots support if she were the nominee.

    There may be an opening for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who’s running out of opportunities to have a break-out moment.

    What to watch for in the debate:

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley participate in the second official 2016 U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley participate in the second official 2016 U.S. Democratic presidential candidates debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

    Data dust-up 

    Clinton and Sanders have remained silent since news of the data breach spread Friday – an issue certain to arise in the debate. The Sanders campaign sued the DNC in an effort to regain access to its own voter data, but the two sides came to an agreement and the DNC agreed to restore access Saturday.

    Sanders’ campaign has tried to turn a misdeed into a strength, saying his underdog campaign was being held “hostage” by a party leadership that’s in the tank for Clinton. He was likely to make the same argument in the debate despite his insistence in past debates on sticking to public policy.

    In the first debate, Sanders avoided exploiting a Clinton vulnerability, her past email practices, saying the matter was irrelevant. Will Clinton reciprocate?

    berniesanders

    Photo by PBS NewsHour

    Sanders seeks airtime 

    Sanders is fighting to stay relevant in a race that has moved away from his message.

    He wants to talk about income inequality. He wants to talk about college affordability. He wants to talk about money in politics. But the country wants to talk about terrorism, and former Secretary of State Clinton is happy to oblige.

    Recent days have brought signs that he may take a tougher line. Last weekend, his campaign pulled down a digital ad portraying Clinton as a candidate backed by “big money interests,” an apparent violation of his pledge to avoid attack ads.

    Clinton’s foreign policy record 

    Republicans are eager to tie Clinton to the unpopular foreign policy agenda of her former boss, President Barack Obama. While she’s shied away from directly criticizing the White House, Clinton has proposed a more aggressive strategy to defeat the Islamic State group.

    Look for her to play up her experience as America’s top diplomat, casting herself as a strong leader in a turbulent world. Her opponents can be expected to highlight her 2002 Senate vote authorizing military action in Iraq – legislation that Vermont Sen. Sanders opposed – in an attempt to appeal to anti-war Democrats.

    Clinton on offensive, but against whom?

    Even as her aides say they expect tight primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton has intensified her focus on her would-be Republican challengers, including front-runner Donald Trump. Clinton aides believe that reminding Democrats of their potential general election opponent helps motivate her supporters and bolsters their argument that Clinton would be the most electable choice in November.

    Does she spend more time going after Republicans or Democrats on the debate stage.

    O’Malley’s last chance? 

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    O’Malley is surging. Unfortunately for him, it’s from 2 percent to 4 percent.

    Since entering the race in the spring, O’Malley has struggled to break 5 percent in polls. In November, he accepted public funding to bolster his flagging campaign, a move that could constrain his ability to compete down the road by imposing strict spending limits.

    With the first round of voting just six weeks away, this debate was one of his last chances to make his case to a broad audience.

    Will anyone watch? 

    Jonah Guy (L), Deni Baird, and Lenin Cardwell watch a movie screen at a debate watch event in support of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa in November.  Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters

    Jonah Guy (L), Deni Baird, and Lenin Cardwell watch a movie screen at a debate watch event in support of Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa in November. Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters

    Debates have turned into big business for cable news networks this year, breaking viewership records. Twenty-five million people watched the first Republican debate and 15.3 million watched the first Democratic debate in October.

    Don’t expect those kinds of numbers this time. The last Democratic debate of 2015 is on a Saturday night less than a week before Christmas, just as one of the two previous debates was on a Saturday night. Viewership is expected to be low – a fact that’s infuriated O’Malley, Sanders and other Democratic advocates, who argue that party leaders are rigging the process to benefit Clinton.

    The post Sanders expected to face tough questions in third debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric linked to al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, gives a religious lecture in an unknown location in this still image taken from video released by Intelwire.com on September 30, 2011. Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed, Yemen's Defence Ministry said on Friday. A Yemeni security official said Awlaki, who is of Yemeni descent, was hit in a Friday morning air raid in the northern al-Jawf province that borders oil giant Saudi Arabia. REUTERS/Intelwire.com (OBITUARY CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT - RTR2S19P

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The FBI revealed in a criminal complaint this week that one of the San Bernardino shooters, the husband, Syed Rizwan Farooq, and an alleged co-conspirator who bought the couple’s assault rifles, were inspired by former al Qaeda leader Anwar Awlaki. The U.S. killed Awlaki in a drone strike four years ago in Yemen, but his legacy lives on in hours of recordings, many posted online.

    “New York Times” reporter Scott Shane wrote the book “Objective Troy,” about Awlaki and the drone war. He joins me now from Baltimore.

    You mentioned in your article there is increased pressure on Internet companies. Where is that coming from and how are these companies responding?

    SCOTT SHANE, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it’s not really coming from the government, although many counterterrorism officials are very distressed by Awlaki’s continuing influence on the radicalization of some Americans. It’s coming more from the sort of advocates who are working to counter extremism, especially in the Muslim community. And some of it’s coming from a group called the Counter Extremism Project, which includes a number of former government officials. They’re the ones who are sort of leading this call for YouTube and other Internet platforms to pull down Anwar Awlaki’s material.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There was connections, the Fort Hood shooter, the failed underwear bomber, the Tsarnaev brothers, they were all in some way, shape, or form inspired by what they heard on the Internet from Awlaki. But where does it stop? How do you figure out what’s hate speech? What’s extremist speech? What’s the thing that actually triggers someone to pick up arms against the United States?

    SCOTT SHANE: I mean, in writing this book “Objective Troy” about Anwar al-Awlaki, of course, I used YouTube and other Internet sites and listened to many, many hours of Awlaki talking. So, people, you know, who want to understand radicalization, who want to understand terrorism, these are important things to look at.

    But it is complicated because, you know, the country is spending billions of dollars to prevent terrorism, and, you know, in some ways the main engines of radicalization are provided, ironically, by some of the United States’ most successful and prominent companies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As you pointed out — I mean, there were 60,000 results for his videos on YouTube today. So how — what is the technological fix?

    SCOTT SHANE: Well, part of what makes his particular case complicated is that he was a very successful, popular imam in the United States for a number of years, and so he did, for example, a 53 CD set on the life of the Prophet Mohammed, totally mainstream stuff, very popular among English-speaking Muslims, certainly in the years before Awlaki became a terrorist. And that is up there on YouTube as with well.

    The Counter Extremism Project believes YouTube should take down not just the calls for violence from Anwar al-Awlaki, but all of his material, because they say that the mainstream stuff sort of establishes his respectability and his authority. And then when he tells people, “Your religious obligation is to kill Americans and attack the United States,” that hits home. But many civil rights groups, Muslim advocacy groups have a big problem with that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Scott Shane, reporter from “The New York Times”, joining us from Baltimore, his book is called “Objective Troy” — thanks so much for joining us.

    SCOTT SHANE: Thank you.

    The post After San Bernardino, a call to block online al-Qaida content appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ABOARD THE USS KEARSARGE — The American airstrike that may have killed a number of Iraqi soldiers on Friday seems to be “a mistake that involved both sides,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Saturday. Iraq pledged to punish those responsible.

    Speaking to reporters during a visit to the USS Kearsarge in the Persian Gulf, Carter said the incident near the western Iraqi city of Fallujah was “regrettable.” He called Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to express condolences.

    “These kinds of things happen when you’re fighting side by side as we are,” Carter said. He said the airstrike Friday “has all the indications of being a mistake of the kind that can happen on a dynamic battlefield.”

    Iraq’s defense minister, Khalid al-Obeidi, told reporters in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, that the strike killed one officer and nine soldiers. He said Iraq had begun an investigation and that the “wrongdoer would be punished according to Iraqi law.” He did not elaborate.

    A U.S. military statement Friday did not say how many Iraqi soldiers may have been killed.

    Carter, who spent two days in Iraq this past week, called Abadi from the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship supporting coalition missions in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State militants. The Kearsarge carries a Marine expeditionary unit and naval aircraft.

    The Pentagon chief did not provide details about the airstrike, which the U.S. military headquarters in charge of the war effort in Syria and Iraq said was one of several it conducted Friday against IS targets. The U.S. military statement said the airstrikes came in response to requests and information provided by Iraqi security forces on the ground near Fallujah, which is in IS control, and were done in coordination with Iraqi forces.

    A senior U.S. defense official said there was fog in that area and that weather may have played a role in the incident. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Carter said he told Abadi that the United States was investigating and would work with the Iraqis.

    Asked if he was worried the deaths might further anger Iraqi citizens who may not be happy with the American and coalition presence in Iraq, Carter said, “I hope Iraqis will understand that this is a reflection of things that happen in combat. But it’s also a reflection of how closely we are working with the government” of Iraq.

    He added that during the call, both he and Abadi recognized that “things like this can happen in war.”

    The Iraqi government is under pressure from parliament to deliver a strong response. The parliamentary Defense and Security Committee said it was demanding a “tough stance” from Iraq’s leadership. Lawmaker Mohammed al-Karbouli said the “repetitive targeting” of Iraqi forces “raises suspicions over the credibility” of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.

    Carter met with Abadi during a stop in Baghdad on Monday to discuss the fight against IS, and the U.S. and coalition plans to accelerate the campaign.

    Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.

    The post Carter: Strike that killed Iraqi soldiers may be ‘mistake’ by both sides appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, and Senator Ted Cruz stand onstage together during the singing of the U.S. national anthem the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada this week. Photo By David Becker/Reuters

    Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, and Senator Ted Cruz stand onstage together during the singing of the U.S. national anthem the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada this week. Photo By David Becker/Reuters

    WASHINGTON —  It can be hard to see where Donald Trump the business ends and Donald Trump the presidential candidate begins.

    When Trump is confronted by his political rivals, the Republican front-runner’s company attorney threatens lawsuits on corporate letterhead.

    When Trump’s campaign needs event space, private businesses sometimes provide it free.

    The political novice’s use of corporate resources – his own and others – is just one more campaign tool. But it has drawn the attention of federal regulators, as well as campaign-law experts who say some of what he’s doing could be illegal.

    “The entanglements with his business and his campaign are certainly unusual, and maybe unprecedented,” said Kenneth Gross, a lawyer who previously led the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement division. “Use of a candidate’s own corporate resources is highly, highly regulated activity.”

    At the FEC’s demand, Trump’s campaign on Thursday provided regulators with the names of employees at his real estate and entertainment company who are doing work for his campaign – mostly security and communications aides.

    Trump’s personal brand is fused with his business, making his campaign’s navigation of election law a particular challenge. He’s not the first candidate in this position. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and past presidential contender Steve Forbes both run companies bearing their name.

    “From day one, there was no use of any corporate assets in any way, shape or form,” said Bill Dal Col, who ran Forbes’ unsuccessful 1996 and 2000 White House campaigns. “That way you don’t have to walk the maze of campaign law, and you don’t expose business or campaign to any liability.”

    Bloomberg also took “enormous care” not to commingle his business and campaign, said Gross, who was his campaign attorney.

    Trump is taking a different path, testing an area of election law as no other candidate has before.

    Reports filed by Trump’s campaign covering its activities through Sept. 30 show hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to cover reimbursements for campaign space at Trump’s Manhattan office tower, political use of the corporate jet and the salaries of Trump Organization employees.

    Trump himself appears to be personally paying for the jet and salaries, and candidates are allowed to spend as much of their own money seeking election as they wish.

    But none of the Trump Organization lawyers, including general counsel Alan Garten, is being paid through the campaign. Garten has sent angry letters when a rival candidate or group attacks Trump.

    This month, Mike Fernandez, a billionaire Miami donor backing Jeb Bush’s White House bid, called Trump “a destroyer” in newspaper ads.

    Garten warned him and the treasurer of an unrelated pro-Bush group that if the “ads contain any false, misleading, defamatory, inaccurate or otherwise tortious statements or representations concerning Mr. Trump, his business or his brand, we will not hesitate to seek immediate legal action to prevent such distribution and hold you jointly and severally liable to the fullest extent of the law for any damages resulting therefrom … and will look forward to doing it.”

    Recipients of similar letters from Garten include a group backing the candidacy of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the conservative group Club for Growth, which spent about $1 million on TV ads calling Trump “the worst kind of politician.”

    Political candidates rarely respond to attacks by threatening legal action, because the law gives wide protection to speech made against political figures, a group that now includes Trump. The Trump Organization argues it has a right to protect its brand, which means protecting Trump.

    “Those rights are not forfeited by virtue of Mr. Trump’s candidacy,” said Hope Hicks, a Trump campaign spokeswoman (and Trump Organization employee). The defense of his brand, she said, “is in no way any form of campaign activity and does not run afoul of federal election laws.”

    Bob Biersack, who worked for the FEC for 30 years and is now a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, called such reasoning “kind of silly.” He said he had never heard of a business person invoking brand protection as a guard against public policy arguments.

    Some of those who have received Trump Organization warnings have in turn slammed him for what they contend is his illegal use of corporate resources.

    “Trump and his agents have explicitly directed his corporate attorneys at the Organization to do the dirty work for the campaign,” wrote Charlie Spies, the attorney for groups backing Bush, in a reply to Garten. “Just as your client is attempting to quickly learn the basics of foreign policy, we wish you personally the best in your attempts to learn election law.”

    Spies has filed an FEC complaint along those lines.

    Gross said Trump’s use of his own company resources, if properly documented and reimbursed at a fair market rate, could be permissible, if unusual. What’s murkier is his campaign’s use of the resources of other companies.

    A Trump Place building, an apartment complex on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is seen in New York. Photo By Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    A Trump Place building, an apartment complex on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is seen in New York. Photo By Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    On Wednesday, Trump held a rally held at an airport hangar owned by International Air Response, a specialty aerial services provider run by Travis and Bill Grantham in Arizona.

    “They gave us a very good deal,” Trump bragged at the event. “You know what it is? Nothing. Thank you, fellas.”

    That might come as a disappointment to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose campaign in June paid $40,000 to lease an aircraft from the same company to use as a dramatic backdrop as he launched his ill-fated presidential bid.

    Bill Grantham said fees for the 67,000-square-foot space that Trump used run from “free to tens of thousands of dollars,” depending upon the circumstance. He declined to give more details or discuss his arrangement with the Trump campaign.

    The free space for Trump appears to be an illegal corporate contribution, said Larry Noble, a former FEC commissioner and senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit that supports strong enforcement of election law.

    That’s because corporations are barred from giving anything – whether it is a cash donation or a valuable gift such as an arena space – to a candidate’s official campaign.

    Asked about the legality of his company’s arrangement with Trump, Grantham declined to comment. Hicks, the Trump campaign spokeswoman, responded by saying the campaign’s next financial report will be filed with the FEC in January.

    The post Trump bid mixes business and politics in unorthodox ways appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders listens to the opening statement of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1ZF5Q

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders listens to the opening statement of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Latest on the Democratic presidential debate (all times local):

    10:59 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton has closed out the Democratic presidential debate with an argument aimed squarely at the general election.

    Clinton focused not on her primary rivals in her final statement, but on Republicans.

    She says it’s important for a Democrat to succeed President Barack Obama. She wants to portray herself as the most electable candidate against a Republican nominee.

    Clinton says if, “heaven forbid,” a Republican is elected, rights will be rolled back for women, gays, workers and others. She says Social Security and health care for veterans may be privatized.

    She says the 2016 election is a “watershed election.”

    The Democratic front-runner also mentioned other big news — the new Star Wars movie. She told the debate audience, “Thank you, and may the force be with you.”
    ___

    10:48 p.m.

    As the Democratic presidential debate wound down, the moderators asked about the role of the White House spouse.

    Clinton praised first lady Michelle Obama for her work on nutrition. Clinton said she would tap former President Bill Clinton for advice and special missions, such as improving the economy for everyone. And she said she would probably pick out china for state dinners on her own.

    Sanders said his wife, Jane, is “a lot smarter than me” and would sit close to him in the West Wing of the White House.

    The Vermont senator thanked Clinton for her ambition as a former first lady, saying she “redefined what that role could be.”

    ___

    10:30 p.m.

    The Democratic candidates for president are calling for new action to halt the heroin epidemic ravaging New Hampshire and other states across the country.

    Bernie Sanders says doctors and pharmacies “have got to start getting their act together” to limit the supply of opiates they’re prescribing.

    He says, “Addiction is a disease, not a criminal activity.”

    Hillary Clinton says she’s met people across New Hampshire who have lost loved ones to addiction or are fighting to get clean.

    She says it’s “a major epidemic.” She wants more federal money to help states and thinks all law enforcements should carry a drug that can stop overdoses.

    Martin O’Malley says the country should be reacting to the crisis with the same urgency with which it reacted to last year’s breakout of Ebola in west Africa.

    ___

    10:20 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton says mistrust between police officers and the nation’s minority communities is one of the most important challenges facing the next president.

    Clinton says in the Democratic debate there is “systemic racism,” injustices and inequalities in the U.S. — especially in the criminal justice system.

    She says the next president should build on President Barack Obama’s work to try to restore trust.

    But Clinton also praises police officers who she says are “acting heroically” in some parts of the country to bridge divides.

    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says the U.S. needs to “end institutional racism.” He says police officers shouldn’t be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African Americans.

    ___

    10:17 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton is pledging not to raise taxes on middle class families making under $250,000 a year if she’s elected president.

    Clinton says in the Democratic presidential debate there will be “no middle class tax raises.” She adds, “That is a pledge that I’m making.”

    Clinton argues the government should not be creating large new programs that will impose higher taxes on families while wages remain stagnant.

    Clinton made the pledge while criticizing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ health care plan.

    But Sanders says he supports a small tax to fund paid family and medical leave, which the country currently lacks.

    ___

    10:13 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton says she would build on the “successes” of the president’s health-care law and work to resolve what she calls “glitches.

    Clinton said in the Democratic debate that prices on prescription drugs have gone “through the roof” and that the private health care and government-run insurance exchanges should be better regulated “so that we are not being gamed.”

    She says there’s not enough competition and not enough oversight of what insurance companies are charging for health care coverage.

    Pressed by the moderator on how those seemingly major issues are “glitches,” Clinton says they are attributable to problems any start-up encounters.

    Bernie Sanders says he would push for a single-payer health care system that would he would fund with new taxes.

    ___

    9:51 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton is working reframe the debate about Wall Street reform in a way that would help her in the general election if she’s the Democratic nominee.

    Clinton has been accused by primary opponents of being too cozy with big banks and Wall Street.

    But Clinton is portraying herself as an antagonist of corporations who oppose her steps to rein in excesses. She’s pointing out that two billionaires who run hedge funds are running campaign ads attacking her.

    Clinton says she gets more donations from students and teachers than she does from Wall Street

    Clinton is also trying to turn the tables on Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. She’s suggesting O’Malley is hypocritical and says when he ran the Democratic Governors Association, he had “no trouble” raising money from major corporations.

    ___

    9:42 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton says she thinks “everybody should” love her, including corporate America.

    The Democratic front-runner for president has faced criticism for her close ties to Wall Street and for the money she’s raised from the financial services industry.

    But Clinton says she want to be the president “for the struggling, the striving and the successful.”

    Clinton says she wants the wealthy to pay higher tax rates but also wants to partner with the private sector to create jobs.

    Asked if corporate America will love him, Bernie Sanders says, “No, I think they won’t.”

    The Vermont senator says chief executives of large multinational corporations “ain’t going to like me, and Wall Street is going to like me even less.”

    ___

    9:31 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders says he wants to make “secondary” the fight against Syrian leader Bashar Assad and focus exclusively on defeating the Islamic State.

    He says at the Democratic presidential debate, “it is not Assad who is attacking the United States.”

    Hillary Clinton responds that she wants to “do both at once.”

    Both candidates decried Assad, with Sanders calling him a terrible dictator” and Clinton dialing up the rhetoric by labeling him “a despot with American blood on his hands.”

    Vermont Sen. Sanders says he worries the country is too involved in regime change without thinking through the consequences, an echo of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s thoughts on foreign policy.

    ___

    9:25 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders says Muslim-majority nations should take the lead in fighting the Islamic State group.

    Sanders says there should be an international coalition including Russia that fights the Islamic State.

    But he says troops on the ground must be Muslims, and not American troops.

    The Vermont senator says countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have to “step up to the plate” and provide needed troops.

    He says the U.S. should tell Saudi Arabia that instead of going to war in Yemen, the kingdom should go to war against IS.

    He says the U.S. should tell Qatar that instead of spending $200 billion on the World Cup, it should pay attention to the threat of IS at its doorstep.

    ___

    9:10 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton is breaking with New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who’s called for a halt to admitting Syrian refugees into the country.

    Clinton says a heightened screening process should “move forward” while the country also battles Islamic State militants.

    At the Democratic debate in Hassan’s home state, Clinton is advocating prioritizing refugees who are orphans, widows and the elderly for admission into the country.

    Clinton says failing to accept the refugees would “sacrifice American values.”

    Hassan is a Democrat who endorsed Clinton in September.

    ___

    9:05 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump is becoming the Islamic State group’s “best recruiter” with his call to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the U.S.

    Clinton says in the third Democratic debate that she understands people are fearful after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

    But she says, “Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people.”

    She says Americans need to be united against the threats the country faces, and that Muslim-Americans must be part of that united front.

    ___

    8:55 p.m.

    Martin O’Malley is attacking Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for doing too little to strengthen gun laws. He interrupted moderators in the Democratic debate to get a word in on gun control.

    O’Malley says the lack of progress on gun safety is due to the “flip-flopping political approach in Washington” represented by Clinton and Vermont Sen. Sanders.

    He points to his record of pushing gun safety laws as governor of Maryland. O’Malley says he overcame objections from the National Rifle Association and crowds that protested new gun safety laws.

    The heated remarks from O’Malley prompted pushback from Clinton and Sanders.

    Sanders said: “Let’s calm down a little bit, Martin.”

    Clinton said: “Let’s tell the truth, Martin.”

    ___

    8:52 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders is trying to square his background as a senator from the rural state of Vermont with a Democratic primary electorate eager to see tougher gun control regulations.

    Sanders says at the Democratic debate, “It’s a divided country on guns, but there is a broad consensus on sensible gun safety regulations.”

    Sanders is calling for “sensible gun regulations,” including eliminating the gun show loophole.

    He previously backed legislation that would have given gun manufactures immunity from lawsuits and opposed the Brady Bill.

    ___

    8:45 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton says she accepts an apology from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the actions of his staff in a data breach, urging voters and the media to “move on.”

    Clinton says she was “distressed” when she learned of the data breach and says her campaign will participate in an independent investigation to examine what went wrong.

    She says, “I don’t think the American people are that interested in this.”

    Her words echoed the language that Sanders used when he dismissed issues around Clinton’s use of a private email account and server when she was secretary of state.

    During the first Democratic primary debate, he said Americans were “sick and tired” of hearing about her “damn emails.”
    ___

    8:40 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders is apologizing to both Hillary Clinton and his own supporters for the actions of staff in a data breach that has roiled the Democratic campaign for president in the past 24 hours.

    Sanders says his staff did “the wrong thing” by accessing Clinton campaign voter information on a database hosted by the Democratic National Committee.

    He says, “I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the type of campaign that we run.”

    He says he looks forward to working with Clinton’s campaign on an independent investigation.

    Sanders’ campaign fired a worker involved in the data breach.

    ___

    8:37 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders is using his opening statement at the Democratic debate to talk about how it is “too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”

    That’s an implicit knock on his top rival Hillary Clinton, a former first lady and secretary of state.

    In his opening statement, Sanders wove foreign policy into his better-known campaign remarks about income inequality, “corrupt” campaign-finance and climate change.

    Sanders also says he wants to fight and defeat the Islamic State without getting the U.S. involved in “perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East.”

    He says he would do that primarily by supporting Muslim troops on the ground.

    ___

    8:35 p.m.

    Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley says the U.S. must never surrender to the “fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.”

    O’Malley is alluding to Republican front-runner Donald Trump as he gives his opening statement in the third Democratic presidential debate.

    He says the U.S. must not surrender to terrorists, but also must not surrender to racists.

    He says the enduring symbol of the U.S. is not a barbed wire fence but the Statue of Liberty.

    Trump has proposed building a border fence with Mexico and barring Muslims from entering the U.S. O’Malley is drawing a contrast by saying the U.S. faces dangers from terrorists but also from abandoning its values in its response.

    ___

    8:33 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton is setting her sights on Republicans rather than her primary opponents in the third Democratic presidential debate.

    Clinton used her opening remarks to urge voters to prevent Republicans from “rolling back” Obama administration proposals, including his signature health care law and tax breaks.

    She said, “We have distinct differences between those of us on the stage tonight and all of our Republican counterparts.”

    Clinton says Democrats have “a lot of work to do” to explain where their party stands to voters.

    ___

    8:32 p.m.

    The final Democratic debate of the year is underway, and the candidates are delivering opening statements.

    ___

    8:25 p.m.

    The third Democratic debate of the 2016 presidential campaign is about to get started at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

    Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley will be on stage.

    They’ve run a relatively civil campaign so far. But that could change after Friday’s flare-up between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns and the Democratic National Committee.

    Clinton’s campaign accuses the Sanders camp of stealing valuable voter information it stored on a DNC database.

    The Sanders campaign denies the charge, even it admits staff members did improperly review voter information belonging to Clinton. One staffer was fired.

    For Clinton, the question is how forcefully to confront Sanders whether to defend the DNC, which temporarily cut off the Vermont senator’s access to the party’s voter database.

    Sanders’ campaign filed a lawsuit against the DNC.

    The issue never went to court. The DNC said early Saturday the Sanders campaign had complied with its request for information about the incident.

    The post Democratic presidential candidates face off for third debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders arrives onstage before the start of the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1ZF5K

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders arrives onstage before the start of the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    MANCHESTER, N.H. — Bernie Sanders apologized to Hillary Clinton and his own supporters Saturday night for a breach of her campaign’s valuable voter data, seeking to put the controversy to rest in a debate that quickly moved on to national security concerns and Americans’ heightened fear of terrorism.

    Clinton, the Democratic front-runner who kept an eye on the general election, was also sharply critical of Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States, calling the leader of the GOP race the Islamic State’s “best recruiter.”

    “Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people,” said Clinton, the former secretary of state.

    Clinton and Sanders, her closest challenger, entered Saturday night’s debate in the midst of one of their fiercest fights — about the campaign itself rather than a national or international issue. Clinton’s campaign accused Sanders’ team of stealing information used to target voters and anticipate what issues might motivate them. In response to the breach, the Democratic National Committee temporarily cut off Sanders’ team’s access to its own data, a move the Vermont senator said Saturday was an “egregious act.”

    Still, Sanders said his staff had acted improperly.

    “This is not the type of campaign that we run,” he said.

    Clinton quickly accepted the apology, saying “We should move on because I don’t think the American people are interested in this.”

    Clinton and Sanders were joined on stage by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has struggled to be a factor in the race. O’Malley was aggressive in seeking to play a role in the debate, repeatedly talking over moderators and accusing his rivals of having outdated views on foreign policy.

    While there was broad agreement among the Democratic contenders that the U.S. should not launch a ground war to defeat the Islamic State, they differed in the tactics they would take and whether the nation should seek regime change in Syria.

    Clinton recommended more direct action than her competitors, calling for a no-fly zone over part of Syria and insisting that the U.S. must seek to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

    “If the United States does not lead, there is not another leader — there is a vacuum,” she said.

    Sanders disagreed, saying the U.S. should first seek to defeat the Islamic State, calling Assad a “secondary issue” that should be dealt with over the course of years.

    “Yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy, but you have to think about what happens the day after,” he said.

    All three candidates stressed working more closely with Muslim-American communities to tackle radicalism at home. Returning to her focus on Trump, Clinton said, “If you’re going to put together a coalition in the region to take on the threat of ISIS, you don’t want to alienate the very countries you need to be part of the coalition.”

    Sanders sought to stand out on foreign policy by noting his anti-Iraq war stance in 2003. He said he does not support any “unilateral military action” but rather a coalition in which the U.S. works hand in hand with Muslim nations to fight the radical militant group.

    Saturday’s debate was the first for Democrats since the shooting in San Bernardino, California, where 14 people were killed by a married couple that authorities say had been radicalized. The incident, as well as earlier attacks in Paris, pushed national security to the forefront of the 2016 White House race.

    The foreign policy focus has blunted Sanders’ momentum in the Democratic race. The senator has deeply loyal supporters who are drawn to his economic- and inequality-focused campaign, but he’s far less comfortable discussing foreign policy issues.

    The post Sanders apologizes to Clinton, supporters for data breach appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton thanks U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders for apologizing to her about the campaign data breach scandal during the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1ZF68

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton thanks U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders for apologizing to her about the campaign data breach scandal during the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — With each new debate, the presidential candidates come closer to getting the Jordanian king’s name right.

    Among Republican and Democratic contenders alike, King Abdullah II is considered an important figure in the struggle for stability in the Middle East. But darned if they can nail down his name.

    In the Democratic debate Saturday night, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders heaped praise on the king for accepting many Syrian refugees and recognizing that the fight against the Islamic State group must be waged primary by Muslim nations. But he called him Abdul, not Abdullah.

    Still, that was an improvement from the Republican debate earlier in the week, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vowed: “When I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan and I say to him, ‘You have a friend again sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,’ he’ll change his mind.”

    King Hussein died in 1999.

    Among other statements in the Democratic debate:

    HILLARY CLINTON: “Assad has killed 250,000 Syrians.”

    THE FACTS: Clinton appears to be blaming the entire estimated death toll of the Syrian civil war on just one side: the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Yet no matter how vicious his forces have been, deaths have come at the hands of all sides in the nearly 5-year-old multi-front civil war.

    The Syrian conflict began with anti-government protests before spiraling into a war with many groups emerging in opposition to the brutal regime crackdown. Rebels in some of these groups are fighting and killing each other, in some cases with no involvement by Assad-backed troops.

    The United Nations has estimated a death toll of 220,000 since 2011; other estimates are higher, and Clinton’s figure is roughly in line with them. But the death toll is attributable to all parties, not just to Assad.

    ___

    SANDERS, apologizing for his campaign improperly gaining access to Clinton campaign data, raised the possibility that Clinton’s campaign may have done the same thing. “I am not convinced that information from our campaign may not have ended up in her campaign,” he said.

    THE FACTS: Sanders is speculating, at best. There’s no evidence so far that Clinton’s campaign has accessed Sanders’ voter lists.

    During a conference call with reporters on Friday, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, said he could “unequivocally tell you that no member of our staff stole data from theirs.” And the contractor that manages the campaign data for the Democratic Party, NGP-VAN, issued a statement Friday saying “our team removed access to the affected data, and determined that only one campaign took actions that could possibly have led to it retaining data to which it should not have had access.”

    ___

    SANDERS: “Middle class in this country for the last 40 years has been disappearing.”

    THE FACTS: It’s no secret that the middle class is struggling. The costs of college, health care and housing continue to rise, while wages have barely budged for two decades. The Pew Research Center reported earlier this month that the majority of Americans are no longer “middle income.”

    Things are not quite as dire as Sanders suggests.

    Pew found the share of Americans that it defines as middle income — a family of three earning $73,392 — has slipped. It’s down to 50 percent of households from 61 percent in 1971.

    More Americans are low income, but more are also upper income. “The closer look at the shift out of the middle reveals that a deeper polarization is under way in the American economy,” Pew concluded.

    Pew defines the median upper income as starting at $174,625 — a lot of money, but hardly the billionaire class attacked by Sanders.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Josh Boak and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

    The post Fact-checking the third Democratic presidential debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Senator Ted Cruz, former Governor Jeb Bush and businessman Donald Trump talk at the end of the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada December 15, 2015.    REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTX1YVKG

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    JEFF GREENFIELD: It has been the core of political communication: speaking to the multitudes, by any and all methods: the street corner rally; the leaflets, the radio speeches…

    FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny!”]

    JEFF GREENFIELD: … the T-V ads.

    TV AD: “It’s morning, again, in America!”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: But in recent years, technology, in the form of data crunching computers, has upended just about every traditional notion about how to reach voters, how do you talk to them, and how to persuade them to vote. Indeed, modern campaigns more and more are taking the mass out of mass communications, choosing instead to target voters one at a time.

    It’s called “micro-targeting.” And it’s something almost everyone with a computer or smartphone experiences. Companies send you e-mail pitches based on what you’ve bought from them; Amazon knows what books to recommend based on the books you’ve already bought; your neighbor with different tastes gets a completely different list. It’s why your computer looking at the same website will have different ads from those of your neighbor, based on the digital trails you’ve left.

    What’s happened in the last decade-and-a-half is that the tools of consumer marketing—the ability to gather and interpret enormous amounts of data in order to know more about individuals—have been adapted and refined by political campaigns.

    SASHA ISSENBERG: I think we’re talking about using the reams of available new data and statistical modeling tools to find new ways to segment the electorate.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Sasha Issenberg literally wrote the book — Victory Lab — on the arrival of so-called “analytics”.

    SASHA ISSENBERG: What analytics is doing is collecting the hundreds if not thousands of a variables that are available about every adult in the United States — and looking for patterns that are less visible to the naked eye, and saying, ‘Okay, can we come up with a better likelihood of assuming somebody’s propensity to be a Democrat, or to vote in a primary, or to turn out to vote at all.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: It’s happening across the political landscape–Left and Right. Months before Democrat Hillary Clinton announced for President, a pro-Clinton Super PAC—“Ready for Hillary”—was gathering data on social media like Facebook to find and target potential supporters. Republican Senator Ted Cruz has explicitly acknowledged his campaign “is very much a data-driven, grassroots-driven campaign.”

    It — and allied Super PACs — have already spent millions of dollars searching Facebook and other sites to find likely Cruz voters. And according to the Washington Post, the Cruz campaign explicitly credits its use of ”analytics” to the Senator’s recent rise in the polls.

    So—how does micro-targeting work? It all starts with “the voter file”—public information about where you live, whether you’re a registered party member, and whether you’ve voted in primaries and general elections—and then taking it one step further.

    SASHA ISSENBERG: Every magazine subscription that you’ve had, if you’re on mailing lists from catalogs. A lot of states have their hunting licenses, or gun permits are available.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: And here’s the key: thanks to computing power, campaigns can look at traits that are common to their supporters—people who’ve donated or volunteered. By finding other people with those same traits, they are likely to find more supporters.

    That’s what President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign did in 2004, when it looked for supporters in heavily Democratic districts in the key swing state of Ohio.

    In earlier times, this would have been futile; but now the Bush campaign could find supporters scattered throughout hostile territory…kind of like finding raisins in a bowl of raisin bran.

    SASHA ISSENBERG: And so the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee made a– concerted effort between– George Bush’s election in 2000 and his re-election in ’04 to build the infrastructure to make this work in politics.

    And one of their big things was saying, “Yeah, let’s– let’s figure– we know that even in the– the least Republican county in America, 15%, 20% of the votes are– are ours, and– I– if we know how to go find those people– we can be targeted and lower the risk of– of inadvertently mobilizing the wrong people.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Bush won Ohio by two percent; a loss there would have cost him the Presidency. It was a lesson the underdog Barack Obama campaign took to heart in the 2008 Democratic contest.

    MICHAEL SIMON: Yeah, necessity is the mother of invention.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Michael Simon headed Barack Obama’s “targeting and analytics” team in 2008.

    MICHAEL SIMON: In that contest of Hillary versus Biden versus Obama versus Edwards, etcetera, there was a need to do something fairly groundbreaking, because the electoral pathway for Barack Obama simply didn’t exist if the electorate as it typically was configured was going to turn out.…So, what we were really trying to do was to break down the geographic barrier.

    And all these different pieces of sort of digital footprints that we leave behind, that were some telltale signs.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: This information meant, for example, that an Obama canvasser would not go to every door in a neighborhood, but go only to the doors where potential supporters lived…and would go with a message shaped to the interests of that potential voter.

    And in the fall, the same approach that worked for George Bush in Ohio four years earlier proved critical for Obama in at least one battleground state.

    SASHA ISSENBERG: One of the underappreciated reasons why they were able in a cycle to take a state like Virginia– where no Democrat had run a– serious campaign for the presidency in– in 30 years– and make it competitive was that they said, “Yeah, there are a lot of conservative counties here where a Democrat only gets 21% of the vote, but we now have the data to figure out how we can make that 24% of the vote just by mobilizing a few more people.”

    JEFF GREENFIELD: By 2012, Obama’s team embedded analytics into every aspect of the re-election campaign.

    Everything from where the candidates and spouses should go, to what kind of ads should run where and at what time…was rooted in mountains of data which enabled the campaign to test competing messages scientifically.

    SASHA ISSENBERG: So I randomly assign, let’s say 10,000 people into two groups, one of them gets the piece of mail that says Marco Rubio’s tax plan would raise taxes on middle income people, and 5,000 of them get one that says he would lower taxes on rich people.

    And I see that, ‘Wow, one group of people now supports Rubio at a rate three points higher than the other.’

    JEFF GREENFIELD: And because you know about those 10,000 people, you can make reasonable assumptions about a far larger people you’ve never polled.

    SASHA ISSENBERG: Yeah, it’s what they call ‘look-alike modeling.’ And then you’re going out and maybe up to 250 million other American adults saying, “Who are the people who statistically resemble them, and how much do they resemble the type of person whom I know cares about this or will vote that way?” And then you can go out and prioritize among that group how you want to communicate with them.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: In the last two Presidential campaigns, Democrats more skillfully wielded these analytic tools. But in 2016, both sides appear to be well-armed.

    Audience Partners is a firm in suburban Philadelphia that offers targeted messaging largely to Republican clients. Jeff Dittus, the firm’s managing partner says micro-targeting will be even more prevalent this time out

    JEFF DITTUS: There’s a group of folks, and I suspect it’s maybe 35 percent of the population, that you cannot reach with mass media.

    All they do is look at their phones and their computers to get news. And so I see it as a necessary thing for the democracy to be able to push messages and reach those people, because you can’t reach them any other way today.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Dittus showed us how his company used the voter file in Chris Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign for governor of New Jersey—a state with some 5.4 million voters—to specifically target registered Republicans with a weak voting record.

    JEFF DITTUS: So I would exclude the people who let’s just say in ’09 who did show up. And now my audience is down to 296,000 people.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Of course, as with any new technology, there’s a danger of overstating its power. Lynn Vavrek teaches political science at UCLA.

    LYNN VAVRECK: I think that if you have the money to spend on building an analytics shop and sustaining it, then yes. I think you would be a little foolish not to use it.

    The thing I think that is important to remember is that that may be the icing on the cake that gets you that 538th vote in one county in Florida. But you still need the cake.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: If analytics IS overrated, one candidate seems to be testing that idea. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has apparently no analytics operation at all–relying instead on his celebrity, personality and media appearances, as well as a torrent of Tweets, to drive his campaign.

    LYNN VAVRECK: The big stuff in campaigns, I think, is national context. What’s going on in the country right now? What’s the state of the nation’s economy? Who are the candidates? Given the state of the world and who they are, how do they try to beat one another? if you know those things, you can go a pretty long way toward having a sense of how a presidential election, at least, is going to turn out.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Even former Obama analytics chief Michael Simon says analytics are less meaningful when more big issues dominate an election…as huge Democratic losses in the 2010 and 2014 mid-terms demonstrated.

    MICHAEL SIMON: It’s going to get you a couple of points, and it’s going to help build, you know, a robust organization that can help carry the ball or the remaining few yards to the end zone. It’s not going to help buttress against a tsunami.

    And, you know, when the macro-forces are as stacked or as lined up as they were against the Democrats in those two midterms, there’s only so much you can do.

    The post This is how your personal data helps candidates predict your vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders shakes hands with rival Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.  Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders shakes hands with rival Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    MANCHESTER, N.H. — Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton moved past the rancor over a breach of her campaign’s valuable voter data, shifting Saturday night’s debate into a pointed but polite discussion of national security, Americans’ heightened terrorism fears and the economy. 

    Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, kept much of her focus on the general election, sharply criticizing Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States. She called the leader of the GOP race the Islamic State’s “best recruiter.”

    “Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people,” said Clinton, the former secretary of state.

    Clinton and Sanders, her closest challenger, entered the debate in the midst of one of their fiercest fights – about the campaign itself rather than a national or international issue. Clinton’s campaign accused Sanders’ team of stealing information used to target voters and anticipate what issues might motivate them. In response to the breach, the Democratic National Committee temporarily cut off Sanders’ team’s access to its own data, a move the Vermont senator said Saturday was an “egregious act.”

    Still, Sanders said his staff had acted improperly.

    “This is not the type of campaign that we run,” he said. Sanders’ campaign fired a worker involved in the breach but also used the controversy to raise money, sending an email to supporters that said the national party had placed “its thumb on the scales in support of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” His campaign said after the debate it had suspended two more aides.

    Clinton quickly accepted his apology Saturday night, saying, “We should move on, because I don’t think the American people are all that interested in this.”

    The debate, the third for Democrats, was expected to have low viewership given that it was scheduled on the last weekend before Christmas, when many Americans have turned their attention to the holidays. It came as Clinton had solidified her standing atop the field, shaking off a rocky start and the controversy about her use of private email at the State Department.

    Clinton and Sanders were joined onstage by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has struggled to be a factor in the race. O’Malley was aggressive in seeking to play a role, repeatedly talking over moderators and accusing his rivals of having outdated views on foreign policy.

    In a heated exchange on gun control, O’Malley accused both Clinton and Sanders of having a “flip-flopping, political approach” to the contentious issue.

    Clinton also defied moderators’ efforts to cut her off at times, leading Sanders to call out, “Now this is getting to be fun.”

    While there was broad agreement among the Democratic contenders that the U.S. should not launch a ground war to defeat the Islamic State, they differed in the tactics they would take and whether the nation should seek regime change in Syria, where IS has a stronghold.

    Clinton recommended more direct action than her competitors, calling for a no-fly zone over part of Syria and insisting that the U.S. must seek to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

    “If the United States does not lead, there is not another leader – there is a vacuum,” she said.

    Sanders disagreed, saying the U.S. should first seek to defeat the Islamic State, calling Assad a “secondary issue” that should be dealt with over the course of years.

    “Yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy,” Sanders said. “But before you do that, you’ve got to think about what happens the day after.”

    All three candidates stressed working more closely with Muslim-American communities to tackle radicalism at home – a sharp difference from the rhetoric of some Republican candidates. Returning to her focus on Trump, Clinton said, “If you’re going to put together a coalition in the region to take on the threat of ISIS, you don’t want to alienate the very countries you need to be part of the coalition.”

    Saturday’s debate was the first for Democrats since the shooting in San Bernardino, California, where 14 people were killed by a married couple that authorities say had been radicalized. The incident, as well as earlier attacks in Paris, pushed national security to the forefront of the 2016 White House race.

    The foreign policy focus has blunted Sanders’ momentum in the Democratic race. The senator has deeply loyal supporters who are drawn to his economic- and inequality-focused campaign, but he’s far less comfortable discussing foreign policy issues.

    Sanders sought to refocus on his core message of leveling the economic playing field for middle class Americans, including his call for free college tuition and a single-payer health care system. Clinton challenged Sanders on how he would pay for those proposals, suggesting he’d pass on the costs to states and middle class Americans.

    She pledged that as president, she wouldn’t raise taxes on families making $250,000 or less per year. “That is a pledge that I’m making,” she said.

    The post ‘We should move on,’ Clinton says at debate over Sanders data breach appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Governor Martin O'Malley takes notes on the wing of the stage during a commercial break at the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1ZFBX

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Governor Martin O’Malley takes notes on the wing of the stage during a commercial break at the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    MANCHESTER, N.H. — A day after their campaigns exchanged heated accusations over a breach of the Democratic Party’s voter database, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton decided to move on at the final presidential debate of the year.

    Sanders extended the olive branch after one of his staffers was fired this week for improperly accessing Clinton campaign voter data. Asked if he wished to apologize, Sanders did, to Clinton and to his own supporters. His campaign later said it had suspended two more aides.

    Clinton said her campaign was “distressed” when the news surfaced, but she quickly added: “I don’t think the American people are all that interested in this.”

    While the allegations that Sanders’ campaign improperly exploited a breach in the Democratic National Committee voter database kicked off the third Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, it wasn’t the issue the defined it. Candidates spent most of the night engaged in an extensive conversation about foreign policy and national security.

    A look at some key takeaways from the third Democratic presidential debate.

    Data wars

    Clinton’s campaign on Friday bitterly accused the Sanders team of stealing some of its voter data, and the Sanders campaign blamed the vendor that runs the database and the Democratic National Committee for the breach. The Vermont senator’s campaign even sued the DNC to restore its access, after the party cut if off from the database.

    But on the debate stage, Sanders offered apologies while making clear he was still unhappy with the DNC. That’s a message in keeping with his anti-establishment pitch to beleaguered voters and a way to connect with supporters who believe the DNC devised its shortened, six-debate plan to benefit Clinton.

    Sanders tried to muddy the waters a bit by implying it was possible Clinton’s campaign could have some of his team’s data. That’s even though the software vendor said only one campaign was involved in the breach, and there’s no evidence that Clinton has any Sanders data.

    Clinton versus Trump

    He wasn’t on the debate stage, but Republican front-runner Donald Trump was one of Clinton’s biggest adversaries of the night.

    Clinton said Trump was becoming the Islamic State group’s “best recruiter” with his call to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the United States. And when she said she understood that people are fearful after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, she pivoted to attack Trump.

    “Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people and to make them think there are easy answers to very complex questions,” she said.

    And when she described the need to build a coalition of Arab nations to fight the Islamic State, she said: “Bringing Donald Trump back into it, if you’re going to put together a coalition in the region to take on the threat of ISIS, you don’t want to alienate the very countries and people you need to be part of the coalition.”

    Clinton has often used Republicans as foils to make the case that she is the Democrat who would give the party its best chance of holding onto the White House. Bringing up Trump allows her to present herself as a serious figure who would smoothly move into the White House and represent the U.S. around the globe.

    Foreign policy rift 

    One of the sharpest exchanges at the debate came when Clinton and Sanders discussed their drastically different approaches on foreign policy. Clinton, a former secretary of state, said America must remain an engaged global leader, while Sanders said the country should be wary of involvement in complex foreign conflicts.

    Sanders said he wants to make “secondary” the fight against Syrian leader Bashar Assad and focus exclusively on defeating the Islamic State. “It is not Assad who is attacking the United States,” he said. Clinton argued that both goals can be pursued simultaneously.

    Sanders said he worried that Clinton is “too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.” Clinton struck back, reminding Sanders that he “voted for regime change” in Libya.

    Clinton portrayed herself as the most seasoned candidate on foreign policy, arguing “these are all difficult issues” that she’s been dealing with for “a very long time.”

    O’Malley seeks an opening

    Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has struggled to move beyond single digits in polls and tried to cast the dispute over campaign data as a frivolous issue few Americans care about, particularly during the holidays. Many viewers, he said, were “wondering how they’re even going to be able to buy presents for their kids.”

    O’Malley has tried to present himself as a fresh face and to play up his outside-Washington credentials. And at 52, O’Malley is a generation younger than Clinton and Sanders – something of which he reminded viewers.

    “Can I offer a different generation’s perspective on this?” O’Malley interrupted at one point, drawing some boos from the crowd.

    Despite his low standing in the polls, Clinton was prepared for O’Malley’s criticism. When he suggested Clinton couldn’t separate herself from Wall Street, she said he was hypocritical and had “no trouble” raising money from major corporations when he led the Democratic Governors Association.

    Star Wars

    In the debate’s final minutes, Clinton sneaked in a reference to the movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the latest installment of the sci-fi series that opened Friday nationwide. “Thank you; good night,” Clinton told viewers, “and may the force be with you.”

    This report was written by Ken Thomas and Julie Bykowicz of the Associated Press.

    The post From data wars to Star Wars, key takeaways from the Democratic debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to members of the  media following the Democratic presidential candidates debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.      Photo by Gretchen Ertl/Reuters.

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to members of the media following the Democratic presidential candidates debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015. Photo by Gretchen Ertl/Reuters.

    MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has suspended two more staffers after it was accused of exploiting a breach in a voter database to access files kept by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

    Sanders spokeman Michael Briggs confirmed the suspensions following a Democratic debate in New Hampshire but did not immediately provide more details.

    The campaign fired its data director this week after finding that he improperly accessed Clinton’s files in a voter database owned by the Democratic National Committee and managed by an outside vendor.

    Asked if he would apologize during Saturday’s debate, Sanders did, to Clinton and to his own supporters. He said, “If I find anybody else involved in this, they will also be fired.”

    The post Sanders campaign suspends two more staffers over data breach appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Airport workers are seen near the Air France Boeing 777 aircraft that made an emergency landing is pictured at Moi International Airport in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, December 20, 2015. The Air France flight from Mauritius diverted and made an emergency landing at Kenya's port city of Mombasa after a suspicious device was found in a toilet, Kenya's head of police and the airline said on Sunday. Photo by Joseph Okanga/Reuters

    Airport workers are seen near the Air France Boeing 777 aircraft that made an emergency landing is pictured at Moi International Airport in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, December 20, 2015. The Air France flight from Mauritius diverted and made an emergency landing at Kenya’s port city of Mombasa after a suspicious device was found in a toilet, Kenya’s head of police and the airline said on Sunday. Photo by Joseph Okanga/Reuters

    An Air France flight on route to Paris made an emergency landing in the Kenyan city of Mombasa on Sunday following a bomb scare that turned out to be a false alarm, according to a company official.

    Airfrance Chief Executive Frederic Gagey speaks during a news conference in Paris, France December 20, 2015. A suspicious device found on an Air France flight from Mauritius to Paris that caused it to make an emergency landing was harmless and the incident was a "false alarm", Gagey told a news conference on Sunday. Photo By Jacky Naegelen/Retuers.

    Airfrance Chief Executive Frederic Gagey speaks during a news conference in Paris, France December 20, 2015. Photo By Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

    Flight AF463 was packed with 459 passengers and 14 crew members as it left the tiny island-nation of Mauritius off the coast of Africa Saturday night when a device described as suspicious by the authorities was found by a passenger in the airplane’s bathroom.

    The object was made from cardboard and paper and had a timer affixed to it, according to Air France’s chief executive Frederic Gagey.  A passenger who found the device told a cabin crew member about the discovery who informed the plane’s captain, causing the Boeing 777 to be redirected to Kenya.

    A bomb squad entered the plane and removed the item, though Gagey said it did not appear to be dangerous.

    “This object did not contain explosives,” Gagey said in Paris. “It was a false alarm.”

    Kenyan authorities told the Guardian six people are now being questioned about the device, including the man who initially reported it to the crew.

    Passengers who were onboard an Air France Boeing 777 aircraft that made an emergency landing are escorted from Moi International Airport in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa.   Photo By Joseph Okanaga/Reuters.

    Passengers who were on board an Air France Boeing 777 aircraft that made an emergency landing are escorted from Moi International Airport in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa. Photo By Joseph Okanga/Reuters

    Gagey said passengers were evacuated from the plane on emergency slides. One person who was on the flight and interviewed by reporters in Kenya said initially some crew members told passengers the aircraft was encountering technical problems.

    “The plane just went down slowly, slowly, slowly, so we just realized probably something was wrong,” passenger Benoit Lucchini of Paris told the Associated Press. “The personnel of Air France was just great, they were just wonderful. So they keep everybody calm. We did not know what was happening.”

    The incident Sunday was the third time an Air France plane had been redirected since the terror attacks in Paris last month. France remains in a state of emergency.

    Normal airport operations have since resumed at Moi International Airport in Mombasa, authorities said.

    The post False alarm after suspicious device forces landing of Air France flight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders talks to supporters as they open a new regional campaign field office in Salem, New Hampshire December 14, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1YOND

    Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders talks to supporters as they open a new regional campaign field office in Salem, New Hampshire Dec. 14, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    During last night’s Democratic presidential debate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders apologized to Hillary Clinton for the data breach that allowed members of his staff to see information from her campaign’s voter database. 

    As a result of this breach, the Democratic National Committee had cut off the Sanders campaign’s access to its national voter files, and the campaign threatened a lawsuit against the DNC.

    Why did this provoke such a strong reaction from the parties involved? Campaigns have always had a vested interest in gathering as much information about voters as possible in order to know which constituencies and areas would be the most valuable to target for voting turnout.

    But in the past decade, the information available to campaigns has become incredibly granular and precise, not just about groups of voters, but also about every individual voter in the country. As such, this information is an invaluable commodity to political campaigns, both on the local and national level. And the way it’s being wielded now tells us a lot about why the Clinton-Sanders data breach was such a big deal to both candidates.

    In the wake of John Kerry’s loss in the 2004 Presidential election, the DNC began to consolidate its voter information, something that no political party had done before.

    The committee requested voter files from all 50 states, which contain information on all registered voters, such as names, contact information, gender, age, and party affiliation. All of this information was consolidated into a massive voter database that is now available to all Democratic candidates.

    This information is vital to political campaigns. Information about a voter’s age, for example, can tell a campaign whether he or she would be more interested in policy on college tuition or social security and Medicare.

    A voter’s gender can tell a campaign whether or not to target the voter with messaging on women’s health and reproductive rights.

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders shakes hands with rival Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.  Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    Sanders shakes hands with rival Clinton at Saturday’s Democratic presidential candidate debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    How often a person votes can let a campaign know whether that person needs a knock on the door to remind them to leave the house on Election Day, or whether a simple phone call or post card will suffice.

    Campaigns also conduct research on individual voters, including magazine subscriptions, past purchases and social media posts. This more specific information can be used to predict how individuals with similar activities will vote on Election Day.

    It was a breach of this information that sparked controversy between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, and the resulting loss of access to the DNC voter files was a brief but serious blow to the Sanders campaign.

    As of yesterday, the campaign regained access to the DNC voter records — but the episode highlights the value that modern political campaigns place on voter data, as well as the role that the data will play in the coming election season.

    The post Sanders software breach spotlights campaign reliance on voter data appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A character in costume takes part of an event held for the release of the film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallee, France, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier - RTX1Z19W

    A character in costume takes part of an event held for the release of the film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallee, France, December 16, 2015. Photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters.

    Continuing to shatter almost every box office record, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” now holds the record for a film’s biggest domestic opening weekend ever. 

    Exceeding the Walt Disney Company’s pre-weekend expectations, J.J. Abrams’ seventh installment of the widely popular saga grossed an estimated $238 million in the U.S. and Canada and had the second-biggest start of all time worldwide ($517 million), behind this summer’s “Jurassic World” ($524.9 million), which pulled in $208.8 million domestically in June.

    “Our sole focus has been creating a film that delivers that one-of-a-kind Star Wars experience, and director J.J. Abrams, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and the Lucasfilm team have outdone themselves,” Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said in a statement.

    Even when adjusted for ticket price inflation, The Force Awakens is the biggest domestic December release of all time, according to Box Office Mojo. And with it’s opening weekend success, 2015 now has three of the top domestic opening weekends of all time, with “Jurassic World” and “Marvel’s The Avengers.”

    A fan dressed as C-3PO purchases a ticket from a self-service machine ahead of the first public screening of Walt Disney Co.'s "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at TOHO Cinemas Roppoing Hills in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    A fan dressed as C-3PO purchases a ticket from a self-service machine ahead of the first public screening of Walt Disney Co.’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at TOHO Cinemas Roppoing Hills in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    The J.J. Abrams written and directed film, which picks up where the 1983 classic “Return of the Jedi” left off, is playing in more than 4,000 theaters in the U.S. and began its record-breaking run by making more than $57 million in ticket sales for early Thursday night showings.

    Walt Disney — which acquired the franchise’s original producer Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012 — spent $200 million producing the latest installment.

    The film is expected for gross $1.5 to $2 billion globally, according to the LA Times.

    Another four franchise films are expected to follow “The Force Awakens” over the next four years.

    The film opened in dozens of countries this week, but won’t hit the world’s second-largest film consuming market — China — until Jan. 9.

    Vicars Lucas Ludewig (L) and Ulrike Garve hold a church service centered around the 1983 film 'Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi' at the Zionskirche on December 20, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images.

    Vicars Lucas Ludewig and Ulrike Garve hold a church service centered around the 1983 film ‘Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’ at the Zionskirche on December 20, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images.

    Throughout the weekend, Star Wars mania struck devoted fans around the world.

    Diehard fans camped out for more than a week before the film’s premier in Hollywood; members of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus stormed the French Quarter in New Orleans; priests in Berlin held an Evangelical Advent church service centered on “Return of the Jedi,” incorporating the film’s Biblical parallels of good and evil to the service; and, of course, fans all over showed up to theaters in full costume.

    Even Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton took part in the craze, closing her third presidential candidate debate appearance with a Star Wars reference: “Thank you, good night, and may the force be with you,” she said to cheers from the audience.

    Stephen Fee contributed to this report. 

    The post ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ breaks record for biggest opening weekend appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Armed anti-terror police walk ahead of guard officers in March carrying bags of evidence from the house of a man suspected of being involved in Islamic State-related activities in Indonesia. On Sunday, squad members arrested several more suspects accused of planning attacks. Photo by  Muhammad Iqbal/Reuters.

    Armed anti-terror police are shown here on March 22, 2015, carrying bags of evidence from the house of a man suspected of being involved in Islamic State-related activities in Indonesia. On Sunday, squad members arrested several more suspects accused of planning an attack during the Christmas holiday. Photo by Muhammad Iqbal/Reuters

    Indonesian counter-terrorism police arrested at least 10 people this week accused of planning separate attacks around the country during the Christmas holiday.

    The individuals were allegedly in the process of coordinating a suicide bombing in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and also set to target the country’s minority Shiite Muslim community.

    On Sunday, police removed bomb-making material, weapons and training manuals from the suspects’ homes in five cities located on Java, the country’s most populated island.

    The raids also uncovered a cache of chemicals and weapons found buried under a tree at one site.

    Children ride a bike past a house with police tape around it, following a raid by anti-terror police on the island of  Java, Sunday. Photo by Syaiful Arif via Reuters.

    Children ride a bike past a house with police tape around it, following a raid by anti-terror police on the island of Java on Sunday. Photo by Syaiful Arif via Reuters

    Although the individuals were arrested in different areas, the potential attacks appeared to be coordinated, a police source told Reuters.

    Four suspects were said to be affiliated with an extremist group called Jemaah Islamiyah, which killed more than 200 people in the 2002 bombing of a Balinese nightclub, and is reportedly linked to Al Qaeda, police said.

    Gen. Badrodin Haiti, Indonesia’s national police chief, said he believed some of the suspects also have ties to the Islamic State.

    “Some are ISIS members and others are sympathizers,” he told the Jakarta Globe.

    Badrodin said the raids were held on Friday and Saturday after a tip from United States and Australian intelligence services.

    Indonesian forensic policemen walks past destroyed cars near a Bali bombing in 2002.  Photo By Beawiharta/Reuters.

    Indonesian forensic policemen walk past destroyed cars near a Bali bombing in 2002. Photo By Beawiharta/Reuters

    Indonesia has the largest Muslim populace in the world and is made up of a chain of islands stretching across hundreds of miles.

    The attacks were reportedly planned to be carried out on the islands of Java and Sumatra.

    The post Christmas attacks foiled as Indonesia arrests at least 10 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2015. More recently, Republicans have shifted tactics on the law, with attempts to use budgetary measures to install changes. Photo By Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate after the Supreme Court up held the law in the 6-3 vote at the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2015. More recently, Republicans have shifted tactics on the law, with attempts to use budgetary measures to install changes. Photo By Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Republican foes of President Barack Obama’s health care law may be able to get more by chipping away at it than trying to take the whole thing down at once.

    That’s one lesson of the budget deal passed by Congress and signed by the president last week.

    It delayed a widely criticized tax on high-cost employer health insurance plans that hasn’t taken effect yet. And it temporarily suspended two taxes on industry already being collected, which are also part of the health law.

    In contrast to frontal attacks on “Obamacare” that have repeatedly failed, this tactic could well succeed. Delays and suspensions have a way of becoming permanent.

    Polls show that the public remains deeply divided over the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Opponents are already looking for other provisions that could be separated from the law.

    A small group of demonstrators protest against the Affordable Healthcare Act in 2013 in Indianapolis.  Photo By Nate Chute/Reuters.

    A small group of demonstrators protest against the Affordable Healthcare Act in 2013 in Indianapolis. Photo By Nate Chute/Reuters

    Next could be the “employer mandate,” a requirement that larger companies offer coverage or risk fines. Part of the mandate is a controversial definition of a full-time worker as someone who averages 30 hours a week. Critics say it discourages companies from hiring full-time employees.

    “Maybe Republicans have come to grips with the idea that the basic structure of the ACA has been in place long enough that simple repeal is not possible,” said economist Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute, a business-oriented think tank. Perhaps the budget deal “is practice” for more changes, he added.

    Supporters of the health care law are trying to downplay the consequences of the budget deal as superficial dings. It did not touch coverage provisions that have reduced the nation’s uninsured rate to a historic low of 9 percent. Indeed, Obama himself announced that 6 million people have already signed up for 2016 coverage, with more than a month left in open-enrollment season.

    “I think you can make too much of these particular things,” said economist Paul Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, referring to the deal. “They don’t actually have any effect on the ACA’s coverage expansion. In that sense, it’s not a blow against the ACA at all.” The center advocates on behalf of low-income people.

    Yet not too long ago a top White House adviser was vigorously defending the health law’s tax on high-cost coverage, known as the Cadillac tax.

    The tax is 40 percent of the value of employer-sponsored plans that exceeds certain thresholds: $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage. In its first year, 2018, it would have affected 26 percent of all employers and nearly half of larger companies, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Since the tax is indexed to general inflation, which rises more slowly than health insurance premiums, it would have affected a growing share of health plans over time.

    Proponents of the tax, including many economists, see it as a much-needed brake on health care spending. But business and labor joined forces to oppose it. The budget deal delayed it two years, and its future is in doubt.

    The spirited defense of the tax came from Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “Repealing the tax or delaying its scheduled implementation … would have serious negative consequences for our health care system,” Furman warned in a speech Oct. 7.

    Pulling back on cost controls in the health law would erode the wages of workers and add to government deficits, Furman explained, adding that “the administration opposes legislation that would repeal or delay this provision.”

    Fast forward to a recent White House news briefing, when spokesman Josh Earnest seemed to soften that stance. While Earnest said the administration strongly opposed repealing the Cadillac tax, he didn’t address the notion of delaying it.

    The health law’s employer mandate is the next likely focus for opponents, said Antos, the economist.

    “The really large employers are not going to stop offering health insurance, since it’s an important benefit,” he said. “Even analysts on the left would agree that that mandate isn’t going to accomplish much.”

    Similar to the Cadillac tax, the employer requirement raises concerns on both sides of the political divide. That could put the mandate into play when Congress again tackles a budget bill, or some other massive piece of legislation on which lots of trades get made behind closed doors.

    The step-by-step approach has led to other health law changes. Among them:

    • Repealing a long-term care insurance program that was financially questionable.
    • Blocking a change in the definition of “small employer” after businesses argued it would raise premiums.
    • Changing an income formula for determining who can get Medicaid. Originally, Social Security benefits would not have counted, meaning that some middle-class early retirees could have qualified for nearly free care meant for the poor.
    • Limiting the administration’s ability to compensate insurers that signed up sicker-than-expected customers.

    The post Republicans change strategies on health care law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appears on television screens in the media work-room during the Democratic presidential candidates debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.      REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1ZF8F

    Watch Video

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS ANCHOR: Joining me now from Washington for further analysis of the debate is Jon Greenberg from Politifact.

    Jon, during the discussion on terrorism and the Islamic state group, Hillary Clinton made a statement about the impact of Donald Trump’s idea to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Let’s take a listen.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Any truth to that?

    JON GREENBERG, POLITIFACT: Well, I think the issue here is that Hillary Clinton said there was a video being produced. And the problem is not the Clinton campaign nor anybody else can point to a video. So there was an article that the Clinton campaign talked about which had some people saying that ISIS was referring to Donald Trump, but no mention of a video. The people who really do track this stuff say, you know, if Donald Trump had shown up in an ISIS video, lots of people would be talking about it. And nobody was talking about it. So in the absence of evidence, we really have no choice but to say this is false.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Okay. In the Q and A over gun control, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley accused Mrs. Clinton of flip-flopping. Let’s take a listen.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    MARTIN O’MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Secretary Clinton changes her position on this every election year, it seems. Having one position in 2000, and then campaigning against President Obama and saying we don’t need federal standards.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now she said that’s not true. who is right here?

    JON GREENBERG: To be precise, in 2000, she was pushing hard. and she was talking about having photo identification licenses for all gun owners. And then in 2008, she backed off and said no, we don’t need that kind of licensing.

    However, the important thing is you got to key in O’Malley saying no federal standards. Clinton has never backed way from having federal standards. So that part of his claim is inaccurate. But you can find that Hillary Clinton has shifted her position a bit on gun control over the years.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. Finally, Senator Bernie Sanders, who advocates Medicare for everyone, said a single-payer health care system would reduce U.S. healthcare spending. Here’s that.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why is it that we spend almost three times per capita as to what they spend in the U.K., 50 percent more than what they say – what they pay in France — countries that guarantee health care to all of their people –

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It feels like we’re back a few years ago debating the Affordable Care Act. But is he right?

    JON GREENBERG: Well, we don’t know whether or not having a single-payer system would necessarily reduce health care expenditures here in the United States. And we’re not the in prediction business.

    On the other hand, what we can fact check is his basic math, and the numbers there are very clear. In the United Kingdom, we’re looking at about per capita $3,200 U.S. per person. And then in France, it’s about maybe $4,100. Whereas the United States is at $8,700. So if you do the math, Bernie Sanders is correct, and then that’s what we did. So we gave him a true.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Jon Greenberg from Politicfact, joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.

    JON GREENBERG: My pleasure.

    The post How accurate were candidates’ statements at the third Democratic debate? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders answers a question as rival candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire Saturday.  Some analysts suggest  Sanders failed to gain momentum as he trails in the polls.  Photo By Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders answers a question as rival candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire Saturday. Photo By Brian Snyder/Reuters

    MANCHESTER, N.H. — The third Democratic presidential debate opened with an apology and ended with compliments.

    For months, the Democratic primary contest has been a relatively civil affair – offering a tone that party leaders see as a much-needed contrast to the raucous Republican field.

    A day after a rancorous dispute over a breach of private campaign data by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign roiled the Democratic Party, a political truce between Hillary Clinton and Sanders largely held – even as Sanders’ aides seemed itching for a more aggressive confrontation with the front-runner.

    “I apologize to Secretary Clinton,” said Sanders. “This is not the type of campaign that we run.”

    Mindful of the grassroots support she’ll need to fuel a general election bid should she capture the nomination, Clinton accepted his apology, instead, keeping her criticism carefully aimed at her GOP rivals – particularly businessman Donald Trump.

    “I’m very clear that we have a distinct difference between those of us on this stage tonight and all of our Republican counterparts,” she said, in her opening remarks. “We have to prevent the Republicans from rolling back the progress that we’ve made.”

    Clinton’s brush-off of the data breach controversy underscores her confidence in a race in which Sanders is struggling to regain momentum as it shifts away from an economic message – the core of his campaign – to one over national security, because of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

    Sanders’ pledge to avoid personal attacks in favor of policy disputes has seemed to frustrate his aides at times, who have occasionally gone on the offensive on their own. Earlier this month, they pulled digital ads linking Clinton to Wall Street. Sanders also apologized earlier this year after his senior staffers publicly remarked that Clinton would make a good vice president.

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appears on television screens in the media work-room during Saturday's debate.  Photo By Gretchen Ertl    /Reuters.

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appears on television screens in the media work-room during Saturday’s debate. Photo By Gretchen Ertl /Reuters

    The Sanders campaign’s handling of the data breach this week emphasized the apparent disconnect between the candidate and his staff. His aides came out swinging on Friday after revelations that their staffers stole some of Clinton’s voter data, using a clumsy response by the Democratic National Committee to charge party leaders with favoritism and insinuate that her campaign also lifted some of their information.

    Sanders did not follow their lead. Instead, he chose to forgo the political opportunity, just as he did in the first debate when he dismissed controversy over Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.

    The apparent distance between Sanders and his aides may be designed to benefit their candidate by disassociating him from the kind of political tactics that could undermine his truth-telling reputation. But it also highlights the organizational challenges Sanders faces as he tries to turn an insurgent candidacy into a campaign that can topple a world famous political celebrity with a solid double-digit lead.

    Clinton has moved quickly to capitalize on the new focus of the race, touting her experience as secretary of state and casting herself as an experienced hand in a dangerous world – an argument her aides believe will play well against both Sanders and non-establishment GOP contenders like Trump. She also tackled economic issues, emphasizing differences, not so much with her Democratic rivals, as with the GOP.

    “Now, this is getting to be fun,” said Sanders, after Clinton resisted efforts by the moderators to cut her off during a dispute over taxes.

    Over the next six weeks, it will become clear if Democratic voters agree.

    But while most polls have Clinton leading by more than 20 percentage points nationally, the contest remains tight in the crucial early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, the latter in which Sanders has an advantage as the longtime senator of neighboring Vermont. His aides believe that wins in those two states would give them momentum heading into the next contests in South Carolina and Nevada, territory where he’s struggled to gain traction over the former first lady.

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts to supporters at the end of Saturday's debate. Photo By Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts to supporters at the end of Saturday’s debate. Photo By Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Sanders’ campaign has successfully turned grassroots energy into a sizable war chest, announcing last week that it had received 2 million contributions – a milestone only matched by President Barack Obama in his re-election campaign. But to turn that level of early energy into a national victory, Sanders must find a way to expand his appeal in a race in which economic uncertainty is increasingly taking a back seat to security concerns.

    Though there were moments of tension over national security in Saturday night’s debate, Sanders failed to score a clear hit on Clinton.

    On national security, he reiterated years-old criticism of her vote for the 2003 Iraq invasion, accusing her of being “too much into regime change.”

    Clinton quickly shot back: “With all due respect, Senator, you voted for regime change with respect to Libya.”

    Rather than drag out the confrontation when the instability in Libya came up again later in the debate, Sanders seemed to drop it. “The secretary is right. This is a terribly complicated issue,” he said.

    He ended his debate performance by congratulating Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, for doing “an outstanding job” as first lady.

    “Let me tell you something about Bernie Sanders,” senior adviser Tad Devine said after the debate. “I’ve worked for him for 20 years. There’s no script. Bernie decides what he wants to do, what he wants to say.”

    The post Democratic debate analysis: Did Sanders regain momentum? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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